Page 6, 8th May 1953

8th May 1953
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Page 6, 8th May 1953 — An Anglican on Church Unity
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An Anglican on Church Unity

SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND, by Edward Charles Rich (Long

man, 2l vi *

Re ed b 21s.), Reviewed Ross Williamson ews CANON RICH'S book, which is in %-name and in fact "an enquiry," is one of the most important contributions any Anglican has made to the problem of Church unity. He started the enquiry from the premiss that there was no infallible endowment in the Christian religion, but that faith would lead one to recognise truth and experience which was based on this act would produce spiritual conviction.

But in the course of the enquiry, it gradually became clear to his mind that "such an attitude was, in fact, a denial and rejection of the whole Christian claim to be a revelation of the Way, the Truth and the Life." This leads him in the end to write:

"The Pope claims to be much more than the Presiding Bishop. He claims also to be the Universal Pastor and Teacher of all Christians. by virtue of his Apostolic Authority and his endowment of infallibility in the exercise of his magisteriunt. Once that doctrine were accepted, everything else would fall into place. But it must be confessed that such a conclusion could never be reached so long as the Church of England limits her appeal to the evidence of known historical evidence alone . . . By her separation from Rome, little as it was generally realised or recognised at the time, the Church of England did, as a matter of fact, become divorced from the centre of unity and she lost the power of determining the development of the Faith. All that she could do was to defend what she had inherited."

How the Church of England will extricate herself from this dilemma is the over-riding problem in contemporary Anglican apologetic. The Anglo-Catholics solve it by their acknowledgment of the Pope as their spiritual head and the logic of their position (to which the alternative is belief in the infallibility of the Thirty-Nine Articles) is gradually winning, if not assent, at least discussion.

And the level at which that discussion must finally take place, in Catholic as well as Anglican circles, is indicated brilliantly in this book. The vital question is that concerning the development of doctrine and the true interpretation of the Christian Revelation. "The real difficulty in the matter of authority lies not so much in ascribing doctrinal authority to the Church but in determining its relation to the original deposit."

Even where that power is conceded to the Pope in the exercise of his infallible magisterium, "there must be dependence on the insights of the theologian before a definition can be pronounced . . . Before defining a new dogma, the Pope has hitherto at any rate always ascertained the views of the Roman Episcopate beforehand. The doctrine of Papal infallibility is not incompatible with the doctrine that it expresses the mind of the Church."

This is not a question which affects Anglicans alone and this book, which has much stimulating thought on other phases of the problem for which there is not space here, deserves to be read outside Anglican circles.




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